Yeovil Town Ladies will drop down two divisions from the Women’s Super League after the Football Association rejected their bid for a second-tier licence.
The club finished bottom of this term’s WSL and had expected to be relegated to the Championship, but have been told they do not meet the relevant criteria.
An FA spokesperson said Yeovil were unable to provide sufficient evidence that they could meet the requirements.
The club insisted they had submitted a “viable and sensible business plan”.
Yeovil, who won promotion to the top flight in 2016, were given a 10-point deduction by the FA – who run the WSL – on 28 March.
The points penalty was a result of the club informing the FA of their initial intention to appoint an administrator, even though staffing cuts and financial support from the FA meant insolvency was avoided.
Administrators were never formally appointed, but the Glovers opted not to appeal against the 10-point sanction, and were hopeful of competing in next season’s Championship as a part-time club.
However, BBC Sport understands that, in a catch-22 situation, the club were unable to confirm sponsorship deals for 2019-20 without clarity over their status, and the FA requested to see proof of sponsorship income before agreeing to a Championship licence.
An FA spokesperson said: “The FA women’s football board has confirmed that Yeovil Town Ladies FC did not meet the required criteria to be awarded a tier-two licence for the 2019-20 season.
“The club was unable to provide sufficient evidence that it could meet the key minimum requirements of the tier-two licence.
“The FA will continue to work closely with Yeovil to fully support their move into tier three for the start of next season and to ensure their academy players’ dual career programme combining academic study and football is maintained.”
‘So many people are incredibly disappointed’
Staff at the Somerset club are understood to be devastated and heartbroken by the outcome.
But, having had their application rejected, they say they will now aim to “prove the doubters wrong once again”.
“So many people associated with this wonderful football club will be incredibly disappointed and rightly so,” said a club statement. “Our challenges on and off the field this season have been well documented but we have always tried to do the best in these circumstances.
“The club must now plan over the coming days and weeks for tier-three football and what that will mean for us on and off the field. Effectively this is where we started several years ago before our journey of growth.
“We shall share more thoughts and plans on this over the coming weeks as at the moment all involved need time to reflect on recent events.”
Financial struggles in women’s football
Yeovil are not the first women’s side in recent years to drop out of the top flight amid financial concerns.
Last summer, Sunderland similarly dropped down two divisions, from the WSL to the Women’s National League North, after they were unsuccessful in their bid for a licence to play in one of the top two tiers.
Meanwhile, Sheffield FC and last season’s second-tier winners Doncaster Rovers Belles both withdrew from the Championship last summer for financial reasons.
Back in 2017, Notts County Ladies folded on the eve of the Spring Series, just two days before their first scheduled match of that campaign, leaving many of their “gobsmacked” players “jobless and homeless”.
Who might now fill the Women’s Championship vacancy?
The FA now face three options regarding the vacancy Yeovil’s demotion will create in the Championship.
The governing body could:
- Opt not to replace Yeovil in the Championship for 2019-20, leaving an odd numbers of teams (11) for next season and a question mark over whether or not any side would be relegated at the foot of the table next May
- Open up applications to all affiliated women’s and girls’ clubs to bid for a licence for tier two, regardless of their current position in the football pyramid
- Look exclusively to the second-placed sides in the third-tier North and South divisions, and offer them a chance to apply for a licence and promotion
However, the latter of those options could prove problematic, as Cardiff City – who finished second in the WNL South this year, are not believed to be eligible, based on existing rules. Sunderland finished second in the North region.
Only clubs based in England with a ground “situated in England” can compete in the WSL and the Women’s Championship.